Grey market for watches goes into reverse due to bargain prices in Britain

Overseas retailers selling via the grey market into the UK have seen sales stall since the Brexit vote, with British businesses now more likely to export via the same unauthorised sales channel.

The crash in the value of the pound caused by the EU referendum has made distributors in Asia, which have been supplying UK consumers and retailers with cut-priced watches, un-competitive.

Speaking at a seminar at the IJL jewellery and watch exhibition yesterday, Ian Schaffer, managing director of pre-owned watch distributor BQ Watches, said that the grey market has frozen.

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He stressed, however, that he thought this would be a temporary phenomenon as global prices were re-aligned.

Adrian Hailwood, head of the watch department for Fellows, a specialist auctioneer, said the grey market has been feeding an insatiable demand for Rolex, Omega, Breitling and other tier one luxury brands.

As these brands have tightened their retail networks, those shops that have lost these key brands have started selling pre-owned watches or turned to the grey market to source watches that long-term loyal customers are asking for.

These same brands are charged with over-supplying into channels around the world, leading to a glut of watches in some markets that feeds into the grey market.

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